Policies and Programs towards Poverty Eradication
The Five Year plans state social justice as the main goal of the strategies that the government develops. The First and Second Five year plans have explicitly stated that social justice is their primary objective. All the documents of the plans have laid emphasis on the eradication of poverty and bringing about social equality. The government's strategy to counter poverty has been a three fold plan:
The first one is an approach which focuses on growth. It is based on the belief that the increase in the per capita income would spread to all the sectors of people and hence poverty would get eradicated. During the 1950s and 1960s growth was the major focus and it was believed that industrialization and rapid industrial development would benefit the backward classes and help in the removal of poverty. We have seen before that such a thing did not happen and the growth of the agricultural and industrial sectors did not match the growth of the population and hence were not very successful. Population explosion resulted in lower per capita incomes. Green revolution did try to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor farmer but it was not totally successful. Economists feel that the benefits of the economic growth haven't percolated to the lower strata of the society.
Policy makers then thought that work generation and hence income generation could be one way of alleviating poverty. From the Third Five Year Plan, this approach(the second) was adopted and initiated. One of the most significant program was the Food for Work Program which came in 1970s.
The programs that are implemented now are based on the views of the Tenth Five Year plan( 2002-2007). Self employment and wage employment are being given a boost in order to counter poverty. Examples are Rural Employment Generation Program(REGP), Prime Minister's Rozgar Yojana (PMRY) and Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana(SJWRY). The first program targets the creation of self employement opportunities in small towns and rural villages. It is being implemented by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission. In this program one can get loans from the banks to set up small industries. The unemployed who are educated and come from low-income families in both the rural and urban areas can get financial aid to set up any enterprise under the other two schemes. SJSRY intends to generate self and wage employment.
Earlier in the 1990s, financial help was given to anyone wishing to start an enterprise. Nowadays, they are encouraged to form self help groups and save money and lend amongst themselves. The banks and government provides partial assistance to the SHGs. Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY) is one such scheme.
For the poor unskilled people living in the rural sectors, the government has several wage employment schemes. National food for Work Program (NFWP) and Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana (SGRY) are two such schemes. An Act known as National Rural Employment Guarantee Act -2005 was passed in August 2005, under which wage employment was guaranteed to one adult from every family who was unskilled and was to do manual labour for 100 days every year. Hence the poor who are willing to work for minimum wage can report to the areas in which this act has been implemented.
The third approach of alleviating poverty is to provide the basic minimum amenities to the people below the poverty line. India has been one of the first countries to envisage and implement social consumption needs through public expenditure. Programs under this approach supplement the consumption of the poor, create employment opportunities and bring about betterments in health and education. This approach can be traced from the Fifth Five Year plan.
Three important schemes which were started with the purpose of bettering the food and nutritional conditions of the poor are:
- Public Distribution System
- Integrated Child Development Scheme
- Mid-day meal scheme.
We have achieved a good progress through all these schemes. Apart from these, the government has brought in social security programs to help specific groups. For example, elderly people who do not have anyone to take care of them and poor women who are destitute and widows are given pensions and monthly income through a scheme called National Social Assistance Program.